Six Nations Rugby Championship: Round 1

Ireland v England in the Six Nations Championship promises to be an occasion to savour

David Hollywood previews the opening weekend of the Six Nations

There is no better way to kick off a Six Nations Championship than a Friday night appointment in Paris. Wales travel to the French capital knowing a win in round one will set them fair for a title run.

Italy and Scotland take place in the middle order, on Saturday afternoon. Their game will serve as an appetiser for the weekend’s centre piece.

England are looking for only their third win on Irish soil in the Six Nations since 2003. They face Joe Schmidt’s side at 4:45pm on Saturday afternoon.

France v Wales

Whatever about France’s much maligned form in the Six Nations in recent years, a trip to Paris rarely represents a handy game. Just ask Ireland after last year’s epic.

On this occasion, the meeting of France and Wales is priced as a coin flip. I’m siding with Wales based on their impressive squad development in key positions over the last 12 months.

Warren Gatland is entering his last season as head coach of the Welsh and will be more than resolved to leave on a winning note. More of a carrot than serving their long time leader will be the prospect of home matches against England and Ireland. If they emerge from Paris unbeaten then silverware at the end of the campaign becomes a very live possibility.

France were thought to be making strides under Jacques Brunel last year. That was until a first ever defeat to Fiji. Narrow and harrowing defeats against Ireland, Scotland, and South Africa in 2018 indicate more than bad luck. They also lost from a winning position at half time against Wales, however before that, they beat England. Go figure.

I would feel no comfort in having money on France. I wouldn’t be entirely happy having money against either but Wales are the more proven exponents of consistent, winning rugby.

Wales to win the match bet.

See Bar One Racing’s Six Nations betting here

Scotland v Italy

An ideal start to the Scottish campaign. They welcome Italy to Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon and will see the five points for a bonus point win as a must.

This will be a fascinating season to follow Scottish rugby. Gregor Townsend managed to enrich Scottish rugby with attacking flair when he took over the Glasgow Warriors in 2012. Scotland’s downfall each year has been a leaky defence and poor squad depth. The presence of Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh has the potential to complete the circle.

Scotland have both club sides in the knockout stages of the Champions Cup for the first time. Edinburgh’s mean and aggressive defence has added significant ballast to the Scottish squad.

Their real test will come the following week against Ireland.

Giving Italy a 24.5 point head start should be a handicap this rapidly improving Scottish side can overcome.

Ireland v England

It’s been the season defining and championship ending fixture for two years. On this occasion it’s been front loaded but it can still serve to eliminate one side from the reckoning and set another on the path to glory.

Losing the first test in a sequence of five is typically terminal. England have the capacity to trouble Ireland on the gain line. That’s what kept them ahead of New Zealand for so long in November. Unfortunately for Eddie Jones and his charges that’s where their edge begins and ends.

Ireland have the stronger set-piece, a settled back-line, the best half-back partnership in the competition, and are the game’s preeminent breakdown specialists. It’s hard to see where England win this game.

Ireland comfortably saw off a one point handicap in Twickenham with a nine point win on St Patrick’s Day last year. I expect there to a similar gap between the two sides in Dublin in the opener this year. Ireland to beat England starting at -8.5.

Verdict

With just three fixtures to consider each week, and with one side playing Italy on each occasion, tackling the handicaps usually presents good potential for a better price.

I’m going with Bar One Racing’s Week One Six Nations Treble

Wales to beat France, Scotland -24.5 to beat Italy & Ireland -8.5 to beat England at 11/2

 



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*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article